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Thursday, January 17, 2013
The Heard: UT recruiting news and notes

By William Wilkerson and Max Olson

Welcome to The Heard, HornsNation’s weekly in-depth look inside the never-ending world of Longhorns recruiting with news, notes and interesting tidbits on the latest happenings around the program. We’ll release this every Thursday.

Talk about it in our forum and, if there’s a recruit out there you’d like to hear more from, let us know.

A few of the notes in today's The Heard:
Read The Heard after the jump.

Coach skeptical about Barber visit

Texas is getting a big visit from four-star running back Peyton Barber this weekend, but his coach remains skeptical about the Longhorns’ chances.

Alpharetta (Ga.) Milton coach Howie DeCristofaro knows Barber is taking visits this month. He just doesn’t see Barber leaving the SEC.

Tom Hauck for ESPN
Peyton Barber will be in Austin this weekend.

“I think he wants to make sure more than anything else,” DeCristofaro said Tuesday. “I talked to him yesterday and he said he’s firm with Ole Miss. So I’m assuming that’s where he’s going. I think he just wants an opportunity to look around.

“He went to UCLA and I think he just wants to make sure and validate the decision he’s made. I don’t think he’ll come off of that.”

The way his coach sees it, this isn’t an issue of Texas entering the race too late. The fact that Larry Porter has been recruiting Barber for a long time is the reason this opportunity has opened up.

“I think he did a great job while he was at Arizona State with Peyton. I just don’t know if he’s interested in going out to Texas to play football,” DeCristofaro said. “I know Porter has been calling him and trying to get him to make a visit. I still think, in the end, he wants to be closer to home. Austin is a lot farther away than Oxford.”

There’s a lot of reasons why Barber is committed to the Rebels. Ole Miss’ proximity to home is a big factor. Barber likes the family atmosphere that coach Hugh Freeze sells, he likes the success they had in Freeze’s first season and he’s confident he can get early playing time.

“Plus, the SEC is huge,” DeCristofaro said. “I think he wants to play in the premier conference in America, and that’s the SEC.

“I think it’s too far from home for him. His dad lives here, his mom lives here and financially I don’t think they can afford to fly to Austin to see games. They can drive to Oxford easily and the Southeast Conference is not that far.”

So there you go. DeCristofaro makes it very clear he doesn’t think Texas has a chance when it comes to Peyton Barber. When I asked him if he thought it would take an extremely impressive, roll-out-the-red-carpet visit for Texas to be in this race, he said “absolutely.”

But that’s just one man’s opinion. That Barber is even taking a trip to Austin in the first place is a testament to his relationship with Porter. The four-star back will not go home unhappy. But will this visit do enough to sway him?

Even if Texas were to take the lead for Barber this weekend -- improbable as that might be -- don’t forget that Barber will visit Ole Miss on an official visit next weekend. That final trip should be enough to seal the deal. But it’s recruiting, and it’s recruiting in the month of January. You just never know. - Max Olson

2014 LB with a new top two

There’s a new top two for ESPN Watch List linebacker Cameron Hampton (Dallas/Carter).

Texas and Oklahoma are the new favorites for the talented linebacker, and both schools stopped by to see him this week.

First, it was Longhorns head coach Mack Brown and recruiting coordinator Bruce Chambers, who stopped by on Monday morning.

“It was a good visit,” Hampton said. “They said, and this came out of his mouth, that I am No. 1 on their recruiting list. They could use me. They want me down at Texas and that they want me down on their junior day on the 10th."

Hampton did say that he would be able to make the junior day, which is shaping up to be a loaded day for the Longhorns.

The visit between the three was short but Texas left a lasting impression on him.

“It was cool to see them because I know head coaches don’t come out to the school unless it’s somebody important,” Hampton said.

On Tuesday Hampton saw a much more familiar face in Oklahoma co-offensive coordinator Jay Norvell.

“He wanted to see me this morning before he left and wanted to invite me to their junior day on Feb. 2,” said Hampton, who should be able to make that junior day.

The recent visit from the Red River Rivals reaffirmed their positioning atop his list of favorites. Texas A&M used to be in the mix, but not so much anymore, according to him.

“I really don’t know about A&M anymore,” Hampton said. “That’s where I was going to commit to at first but I haven’t heard much from them anymore. So I don’t know if I’m going to their junior day.”

Ohio State and LSU are two other schools that Hampton is hearing from. Hampton said he spoke with Ohio State defensive line coach Mike Vrabel last week and LSU tight ends coach Steve Ensminger over the Christmas break. – William Wilkerson

Can Texas still flip Hammad? (Updated: 10:45 a.m. CT)

Here’s where things stand between Texas and Irving (Texas) three-star offensive lineman Rami Hammad going into the weekend.

Cal Sport Media via AP Images
Three-star OL Rami Hammad likes Texas but won't visit without an offer.

Hammad confirmed to HornsNation that he canceled his official visit to Oklahoma and will be in Austin this weekend on an official visit, along with Barber and safety commit Erik Huhn.

Does this mean he’s received a scholarship offer? Hammad declined to say. He said earlier this week he would not visit Texas without receiving an offer.

Keep in mind, he’s trying to handle all of this delicately because he remains committed to Baylor. It’s similar to the situation of Caleb Benenoch this summer, who tried to keep quiet in the days leading up to his decommitment from Michigan State.

Hammad was pleased by his meeting with offensive line coach Stacy Searels on Tuesday. Searles had visited the high school to let Hammad know what UT’s plan is regarding his scholarship offer.

“Coach Searels really likes me,” Hammad said. “He was explaining the juco guy [Desmond Harrison] to me and said even if the juco guy commits he’s going to try to make space for me, because he really likes me.”

Hammad was happy to hear that. At this point, it’s not an issue of whether Hammad deserves an offer. It’s more a question of how the timing of all this will play out.

“It’s a matter of numbers, it’s not a matter of them liking me,” he said. “He told me straight up that if it was up to him he was going to offer me, and he wished he would’ve offered me last year. It’s just a matter of numbers.”

Hammad has planned to visit TCU next week. That’s up in the air at this point, depending on how the Texas visit goes.
After enjoying a downright flood of offers and interest, the question must be asked: How does Baylor feel about all of this?

“I actually talked to Art Briles a little while ago. He’s confident,” Hammad said Tuesday. “He told me to enjoy the process. I told him I’m still solid unless I find something better. He said he understands, he doesn’t blame me and he thinks I’m really mature. He thinks I can go in and start at right guard for them next year and he really hopes they get me.”

By the way, ESPN scouts recently reviewed Hammad’s film and raised his grade to a 79. That makes him the No. 5 guard prospect in Texas and No. 71 overall in the state. – Max Olson

Brown stops by to see 2014 DB

It’s not often that a head coach stops by for a visit with a junior prospect. But ESPN Watch List defensive back Nick Watkins (Dallas/Bishop Dunne) had two of them stop by this week.

Longhorns head coach Mack Brown and recruiting coordinator Bruce Chambers dropped by on Monday for a very brief visit.

“I didn’t really get to talk to them,” Watkins said. “It was just a handshake and keep walking because of the rules. But my coaches told me very interested in me. My coaches told me that Coach Brown told them that they are on the winning track and are bouncing back.”

The fact that Brown would take the time out to visit his school really meant a lot to Watkins. It’ll be something he’ll remember once it’s time to make a commitment.

“That means that they are very interested and I am very interested in them to,” he said. “I have been looking at Texas since I was little. It’s just a dream come true.”

Not only does Texas have its coaches recruiting Watkins, but also freshman Alex Norman, who used to play at Bishop Dunne.

“He’s telling me that Texas is the place to be,” Watkins said.

Watkins has been offered an invite to Texas’ first junior day, which will be held on Feb. 10. He said he wants to make it but his attendance will be based on his father’s work schedule.

Stanford head coach David Shaw and recruiting coordinator Mike Sanford were also in town this week.

“They came and basically said the same thing that they wanted me,” Watkins said. “They said they have checked out my grades and that I’m a great fit and can come in and contribute.”

Watkins really takes his grades seriously so to have a school like Stanford this interested, really excites him.

“It means a lot,” he said. “My parents and my brother always push me on grades and doing the best I can do. The junior year is the most serious year. So I really need to buckle down.”

Watkins said he doesn’t have a Stanford junior day invite that he knows of. The only two junior days he plans on visiting at this point are Texas and Alabama. – William Wilkerson

Brown and Chambers visit Adams

Class of 2014 safety Jamal Adams (Lewisville, Texas/Hebron), one of the state’s most coveted prospects, found out just how wanted he is when Longhorns coach Mack Brown and co-offensive coordinator Darrell Wyatt stopped by this week.

“It was good to see that he came up here with Coach Wyatt,” Adams said. “It was just really a blessing to see somebody as big as Coach Brown come down here and actually try to recruit me.”

Miller Safrit/ESPN
Class of 2014 safety Jamal Adams is one of the top defensive prospects in the state.

The content of the conversation was one might expect.

“[Brown] was pretty much just seeing how everything was going and the junior day that they are having that I am definitely going to,” he said. “He was telling me to tell the family hello and that they are really high on me. He also asked what commits need to talk to me to really get me down there.”

The junior day that Adams will be attending is the first one on Feb. 10, which is the one Daniel Gresham, Demetrius Knox" target="_blank">Demetrius Knox and several other Texas commitments will be attending.

Adams almost never got the chance to talk with Texas’ coaches as he was leaving the parking lot and didn’t realize they were there.

“A coach ran outside and came and got me,” he said.

The realization of who had come to see him hit him as he was about to leave the parking lot after his visit was over.

“Honestly it is just a blessing. It kind of hit me when I left because I saw all these kids out there saying, ‘That’s Mack Brown,’ ” he said. “It really did hit me that he is a big person and a great coach to come down here and recruit me.”

Wisconsin stopped by to see him on Tuesday. Last week, Texas Tech, TCU and SMU visited the school. – William Wilkerson

Texas, Bama interested in 2014 QB

While Texas already has as good a 2014 quarterback commit as it can ask for in Jerrod Heard, there’s another junior signal-caller on the radar who’s already drawing serious interest.

When Mack Brown stopped by Fort Worth (Texas) All Saints on Tuesday, he made sure to ask about quarterback Foster Sawyer.

The 6-foot-5, 210-pound junior has yet to pick up his first offer, but coach Aaron Beck believes as many as three schools are close to offering. The one that’s showed the most interest? Alabama.

“I went up there for the Auburn game in Tuscaloosa and it was awesome,” Sawyer said. “I actually went down there for the week and got to watch practices. I’ve stayed in contact with them. They like me and I really like them.”

For Sawyer, attending the Iron Bowl -- even one which the Tide won 49-0 -- was unlike anything he’d ever experienced.

“The atmosphere was insane and awesome. They were destroying them but it was so loud it seemed like it was overtime – their fans are crazy and loyal. I’d seen the ESPN 30 for 30 but I didn’t realize what that rivalry was like until I actually got there.”

In addition to the Crimson Tide, Sawyer said Oklahoma State, Texas Tech, Oklahoma and TCU have been showing strong interest. Now Texas is in that group too.

“I stopped by my coach’s office and he told me Mack Brown was going to send Major Applewhite down to talk to me. They’re really interested and they liked what they saw on film.”

Playing with Longhorn commits Demetrius Knox and Daniel Gresham means Sawyer has heard plenty of good things about Texas. He grew up a UT fan and said receiving interest from Brown was an honor.

Sawyer said he plans to attend an Oklahoma junior day and hopes to take trips to Alabama and TCU. As for Texas, he’d like to find out if he’s got an invite.

“I’ll talk to them to see how interested they are,” he said. “I don’t see why I wouldn’t go. It just depends on if I have somewhere else to go that weekend. But as of right now, I don’t see the harm in going.”

Nobody would be happier than Gresham if Texas did end up offering Sawyer.

The Texas fullback commit has only played with Sawyer for one year, but he’s confident his All Saints quarterback could do big things in Austin.

“That would be awesome. He’s a great leader,” Gresham said. “Don’t get me wrong, Heard is amazing. Jerrod is a freak. But it would be amazing if he came up there with us.” – Max Olson

Searels stops in for second visit with 2014 OL

For the second time in a couple of months Longhorns offensive line coach Stacy Searels stopped by Jasper (Texas) High School to inquire about 2014 offensive lineman Terrell Cuney.

“All I know is that he was coming in the morning time. I guess he went to the field house and talked to the coaches,” Cuney said of Searels’ Monday visit. “He came through the school and shook my hand and asked me how I was doing. It wasn’t anything about football. I probably spoke to him for three minutes.”

There have been talks that Cuney was offered by Texas. But he wasn’t aware of one.

“I don’t know nothing about that,” he said.

The fact that Searels stopped by Jasper for the second time in two months has really made an impression on Cuney.

“[Austin] is a good five hours away,” he said. “It means a lot. It is really starting to settle in. Man, I am fixing to go to college. I can’t believe it. It is such a dream come true. It means a lot that he keeps coming. He’s come twice so he is really interested.”

It was during Searels’ first visit when he offered Cuney a junior day invite. Cuney said he’ll be going to the second junior day on Feb. 23.

While things continue to heat up with Texas, the center also said that things are starting to get busier with other programs.

“It is still about the same with everyone else but I have heard that LSU is starting to look at me,” he said. “But I don’t know how true it is though.” – William Wilkerson

Brown visiting all over DFW

This week has been a busy one the recruiting trail for Mack Brown.

The head coach has hit the Metroplex hard this week. We’ve confirmed he visited, among others, Denton Guyer, Fort Worth All Saints, Fort Worth Arlington Heights, Dallas Jesuit and Dallas Lake Highlands in the past two days.

This isn’t by any means a new move for Brown, as he’s usually out on the road this time of year checking in with his senior commits. That he’s also stopping by schools to see his 2014 prospects has certainly made an impression.

“That shows how dedicated he really is to the recruits. He actually gets out and gets a more intimate relationship with guys and shows them he cares about them as people,” All Saints fullback pledge Daniel Gresham said.

While at Gresham’s school, Brown said he’d send new running backs coach Larry Porter to All Saints soon so the 2014 commit could get to know his future position coach.

Gresham said Brown did a good job of telling him everything he needed to know about Porter, the newly hired assistant from Arizona State, and went so far as to break down his full bio for the future Texas back.

“They tell me he’s one of the top running back coaches in the nation,” Gresham said. “It puts me at ease. I’m looking forward to meeting him. I was talking to Duke Catalon, and one of the main reasons we committed was coach [Major] Applewhite.”

Getting on the road and alleviating any concerns Texas commits might have about his slightly reshuffled staff is a smart move by Brown. More important, though, will be the visit he made to A’Shawn Robinson at Arlington Heights on Wednesday.

Robinson visits Alabama this weekend, so getting face time with the ESPN 150 defensive tackle was critical. We’ll see if that pays off on signing day. – Max Olson

2014 OT likes Longhorns

We did a Q&A this week with 2014 Dallas Skyline offensive lineman Ty Barrett, but here’s more on what he had to say about his interest in Texas.

The Longhorns definitely have his attention, especially after he watched his former teammate Peter Jinkens come on late in his freshman season and earn starting playing time at linebacker.

Bob Przybylo/ESPN
Class of 2014 offensive tackle Ty Barrett is currently setting up spring visits.

“I like Texas, I really do,” he said. “It’s always a great tradition. It’s the school for your state. I’ve got friends who go to Texas like Peter, and he always tells me he likes it.”

Watching Jinkens pick off his first career pass in the Alamo Bowl and seeing him emerge for UT definitely piqued Barrett’s interest, because the two have a strong bond.

“I was excited. When he comes down here, I always hang out with Peter,” Barrett said. “We work out together. I was excited about it and it’s cool because of how big Texas is what a great program it is.”

Texas coaches visited Skyline on Wednesday, and Barrett said he did receive a junior day invite. He hasn’t decided which one he’ll attend yet. He’ll attend several junior days this spring, including Ole Miss, Oklahoma and Texas Tech.

Those schools and several others -- Barrett has five offers -- have expressed interest in the fact that the 6-foot-5 lineman can be a versatile option at the college level. He’s up to 300 pounds now and can play several spots on the line.

“I think that’s where I’m getting a lot of interest. They can move me to either guard or tackle,” he said. “I can play either one, doesn’t really matter to me. I like tackle a lot, but if I have to move inside I’m down with it.” – Max Olson

Time running out with Fla. RB

Time is working against the Longhorns in their pursuit of four-star running back Alex Collins (Plantation, Fla./South Plantation).

Texas running backs coach Larry Porter visited Collins, the No. 7 running back in the country, on Friday and asked Collins if he could visit.

Collins told me he would think about it and talk it over with his mother. He has not responded to multiple texts messages inquiring about a visit. But if he were to come to Texas it would have to be on an unofficial visit, which makes a visit all the less likely because he’d have to pay his own way to Austin.

Collins is expected to take a visit to Miami this weekend (a school he was once committed to) and then to Arkansas on Jan. 25.

The Razorbacks could have an inside track here as his head coach went to high school with Arkansas defensive line coach Charlie Patridge and Bret Bielema started recruiting Florida as soon as he took over at Arkansas. – William Wilkerson